Paste politics has covered the sexual harassment allegations that Democratic Senator Al Franken confirmed—as has pretty much every other liberal outlet—but that hasn’t stopped some liberals from defending Franken on the same theoretical basis that Roy Moore’s supporters use to justify their loyalty to a child molester: he’s still better than [insert hated tribe].
The problem is that logic doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and supporting Franken’s continued stay in a body which is supposed to represent the people isn’t just morally repugnant, but strategically illiterate. Al Franken was a safe seat for Democrats. Now, when Franken runs for reelection in 2020, this topic going to be the entire campaign for him. New sexual harassers like Matt Lauer are losing their high-profile gigs every single day, and Franken is going to have to explain how he’s different than three-plus years of precedent in this revolution. He is extremely vulnerable now. No one in their right mind would consider this seat safer than it was a month ago, yet here we are.
If your argument is that the GOP already established that morals are out the window, and all that matters is keeping a Democratic seat blue, then the right play here is still for Franken to step down. Minnesota’s governor is a Democrat, so another would surely take Franken’s place in the Senate. The argument for letting Franken keep his seat boils down to thinking that he is the best long-term option to keep a blue seat blue. He’s not.
Half of Democrats think he should resign. Franken’s approval rating in Minnesota has collapsed from 53% to 36%. That’s lower than Trump’s. Only 22% of Minnesotans want him to stay in office, and a third think that he should resign. This is an uphill battle that’s getting steeper by the day, and it’s difficult to see how Franken would be any better than even odds against a generic Republican in 2020. Not to mention, keeping Franken around hurts the Dems chances of winning in Alabama against another sexual predator. Sticking with Franken could cost the Democrats (at least) two seats in the Senate. For what? Because he was on SNL, so therefore he’s the “cool” Senator? This is so stupid on so many levels.
I shouldn’t have to write this column. We should live in a world where principle precedes political strategy, but we don’t. Tribalism won. So to those who are governed by this prehistoric beast embedded in each of our brains, I say: not only does supporting Franken’s continued employment in the Senate violate the moral code which Democrats claim to stand for, but it’s an astoundingly moronic strategy that only serves to benefit Al Franken. Not only are some Democrats downplaying admitted sexual harassment from multiple accusers, but they’re doing it solely in the name of hero worship over a man from a bygone era—and then we wonder how we lost to Donald Trump.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.